Coming off two road victories against then-No. 11 Minnesota and unranked Iowa, the Wisconsin volleyball team remained unbeaten in Big Ten play and moved up one spot to eighth in the country.
"We had a very good weekend on the road at Minnesota and Iowa," head coach Pete Waite said during his Monday press conference. "Minnesota was a very big match because it separated us and put us in a tie with Penn State for the lead in the Big Ten. We took care of business at Iowa. It was very good."
With the victories, the Badgers now own an impressive 11-match road winning streak — and 13 matches overall — with the only loss coming in their first road match of the year to BYU. Wisconsin was also able to accomplish something it has not done since 2001 this past weekend — win at Minnesota.
"The team has been handling [road games] really well," Waite said. "Back from the European trip, all through the five weeks away, it has been perfect for this upperclassmen, senior-led group. It is just the way we planned it."
At 16-1, the Badgers are off to the best start in the program's history. Their 8-0 conference record is also the second best start in conference play. Only the 2001 Big Ten championship team started better at 11-0.
"This is where we hoped to be, especially in the Big Ten season," Waite said. "Leading up to this weekend, we wanted to be undefeated with a shot at Penn State to get them on our home court and hopefully have the kind of match like we did last year here."
Wack wins award
For the second time this season, a Badger was named the Big Ten defensive Player of the Week.
After averaging 6.1 digs per game this past weekend, senior libero Jocelyn Wack received her first career weekly honor.
"When Jo Wack came into our program, she changed our program," Waite said. "[She] made it much better defensively and took us to the next level."
In the first match of the weekend against rival Minnesota, Wack led all players with 26 digs. In the process she broke an 18-year school record for digs in a three-game match. Lisa Boyd previously set the record with 24 digs in 1989.
The next night against Iowa, Wack again led the team with 17 digs.
"Watching her play this season, I know I will miss her dearly next year," Waite said. "She quietly gets the job done and keeps us in a lot of matches. She plays her best in big matches, so I expect even more this weekend."
Now with 1,919 career digs, Wack needs only 2 more digs to become the all-time dig leader at Wisconsin. With just 81 more digs, Wack would also become just the second player in Big Ten history to amass more than 2,000 career digs.
Badgers ranked 6tth h in RPI
The first RPI ranking of the season came out last week, and the Badgers were ranked No. 6.
"Obviously we would love to get in those top four spots," Waite said of his team's RPI ranking. "You can't tell the team too much about that kind of thing. They know how important these matches are this weekend, and they take care of the Big Ten one match at the time. If they do that they have a good shot at one of those top four spots."
However, with a couple of losses in the top 10 this weekend, Wisconsin will have a shot to move into the top four and better its position for the NCAA tournament seeding.
"I like where we sit right now," Waite said. "There was a shake up in the top 10 this weekend. Some teams lost to unranked teams, so that could hurt them in the RPI, which could help us."
Badgers spike cancer
Besides playing for the Big Ten lead against No. 2 Penn State Sunday, Wisconsin will also provide its efforts to "spike cancer."
Teaming up with American Transmission Company, Coca-Cola and Susan G. Koman, Wisconsin will donate $0.50 for every fan in attendance to the Madison affiliate of the Susan G. Koman Foundation.
"The Penn State match is going to be fantastic just like it was last year," Waite said. "We are expecting a huge crowd, and we are hoping to fill the Field House."
The Badgers will also have two honorary coaches for the match. Breast cancer survivors Lisa Powell, a program assistant in the UW football program and Marilyn Bielema, mother of head football coach Brett Bielema, will join the team on the bench Sunday.
"I'll have to ask Brett to see if [Marilyn Bielema] is up for a big pregame speech for us," Waite said.